Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rock and Roll

This kid is rolling! Side to side. Front to back. Back to front. He's a little rolly polly, and it is very cute.

Jack has been getting onto his side since he was born. Front to back started when he was about 8 weeks old. Back to front has been going on this whole last week, when he is 14 weeks old. We kept waking up to find him tummy down. We'd flip him back over and he'd get himself right back on his belly. At first I convinced myself that it was a fluke, or that his co-sleeper has some sort of weird slant, but no... things rapidly progressed, and he's rolling all over the place!

When I mentioned his rolling to Y., one of the teachers at our daycare, she got so excited to share the news with me that she could hardly contain herself. See, they have a policy to not tell parents when a child has accomplished a milestone. That way the parent gets the enjoyment of seeing it for themselves. Well when I mentioned his rolling, she was so happy to share: "He's been rolling all over the mat, and whenever we put him down for naps! I know! He just rolls and rolls!". It pangs me a little to know that they were sure of his rolling success before I was, but I'm thrilled to know that they are are so excited about this little milestone.

Still, Jack, don't get to crawling anytime soon. You're much easier when you're tiny and immobile :)

Jack loves tummy time, now. Next to our arms, his favorite place is most definitely the exercise mat, kicking and rolling away.

The mat is also one of the place where he likes to work on louder forms of vocalization. This morning, we have a conversation about how he might perfect his roar:

He tried a roar out for himself:

But we decided he should save his strength for when he's in character.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can you guess?

Can you guess what Jack is going to be for Halloween?

Hint: it starts with L and rhymes with "Buy In" ...

They barely made column A

Things came to a head on Tuesday night. Let's just say I succumbed to the stress (shear horror) of this second week back from maternity leave. I had just finished cooking 3 pounds of chicken and half a cabbage to make lunch and dinner for the next few days, when the prospect of baby-care, work-care, dog-care, and that non-existant column of Greg/Rachael-care, overwhelmed me to the point that I couldn't function.

Greg made a phone call, and off the dogs went, to the sitter for a two day vacation.

I'm not sure whether it's the loss of the dogs, Jack's good mood, or the awesomeness that is my husband (really, could not understate his awesomeness), but last night was better.

Part of what is stressing me out is that I came back to work with a huge, looming deadline, and I'm not sure fraction of my stress is due to hormonal withdrawal (Jack! I miss you so much!!), sleep deprivation (a refrain I've used so many times that it's lost all significance), the need to adjust to new routine (although who wants to adjust to interacting with their baby for 60 quality minutes a day, I'm not sure), or Work Related Pressure.

In the hopes of some cathartic humor, and out of desperation to untangle myself from the mind-numbing task of reading the same 2 page statement for what is no less than the umpty-zillionth time, I've brainstormed ideas that could cure the practical aspect of our daycare dilemma. I then sorted the items into two columns: A) Not An Acceptable Solution, and B) Worth Considering.

Permanently storing the dogs at our sitter's house barely made column A. Barely.

Column A, AKA, Not An Acceptable Solution:

1. Learn how to get zero hours of sleep. This might give me exactly enough time in my day to accomplish what I'd like to.
2. Find a magical elf to clean and organize while we sleep.
3. Hire someone to drop off and pick up Jack at daycare. Oh and bring him to me at lunchtime so I can kiss his nose.
4. Install electric garage doors, get rid of the car next to ours, and put in a zipline to transport Jack from the kitchen to the car with minimal fuss.
5. Neglect all domestic and business responsibilities associated with being a homeowner and a landlord: allow our 1860s house to crumble to the ground, the cars to stop running, and the trash and recycling pile up so highly in our yard that nobody notices the weeds anymore
6. Open the back door and let the dogs roam free, like nature intended
7. Petition the city to make my own parking spot, right in front of my office
8. There's a Yale daycare 50 feet from where I work. Bribe the teachers with delicious baked goods so that they'll ignore the 50 person waiting list and let me bring Jack in.
9. Purchase technological rights to a teleportation device
10. Have Greg or I quit our jobs, work half time, or take Jack out of daycare and work from home. (This seems a little too serious to put on this list, but I thought I should make clear that it's about as much of an option as that teleportation device)

Column B, AKA, Worth Considering:

1. Hire a nanny. In-home care has many advantages, the greatest of which is that it reduces transportation time and would enable me to go without pumping most days. The problem is, we actually really like our daycare. A lot.

2. Reduce our number of drop-offs and pick-ups by other methods. I've actually been working at the JCC some days during my week. This is a great arrangement. It saves Greg an hour and a half in his morning. It saves me 40 minutes of walking and a good hour worth of pumping. This is a good solution for days that I am using my computer and don't need to run experiments or be present for meetings. This is not a permanent solution, however, because I will need to get my hands back in experimental work soon.

3. Get help with the dogs. The trouble with the dogs isn't just their day to day care (feeding, walking, grabbing poopy diapers out of Tori's mouth)... the trouble is that we are being terrible dog owners and they are bored out of their minds. Zane has taken to barking, Tori to whining, and both of them to waking up the baby and getting into trouble regularly. Plus there's the maddening psychological element of clutching a sleepy baby to my breast while flashing death stares (and my teeth) in a silent attempt to dissuade them from getting pizza crusts off the dinner table. (They got the crusts, in case you wondered). I mean, really, we sent the dogs to the sitter, and after they got back, Greg had to get up twice (TWICE!) to let Tori out in the middle of the night. She had eaten half a tub of another dog's dog food, much mud, and french fries. There's got to be a solution to the dog troubles, but I'm just not sure what it is.

4. Get help with other domestic tasks. I'm ashamed to admit we already have cleaners that come to do things like scrub our stove and mop the floors. What we really need is someone who could help organize everything -- and that's not going to happen. Still, there is room for improvement here. Greg and I are overwhelmed by domestic life: the yard, the cars, the house, the food... we are big on doing things ourselves, but there are probably some tasks that we could outsource, at least in the short-term.

5. Try different hours at daycare. This is an important one. I have flexibility in my non-laboratory work hours: if I can get my work done, I can do it when I want. If I could manage to get into a good nighttime routine, I could take a day off here and there to take care of domestic stuff. Problem is, that's a big "if".

6. Acclimate. There's not much wiggle-room in our schedule, but there's some, and I have intellectual (though not emotional) faith that some of these kinks will work themselves out. I can't see where, but I do know... it can't get any worse, so it's get to get better.

Suggestions for column A and column B are quite welcome.

P.S. For those of you who are reading Jack's blog to, uh, hear about Jack... looks like he's got a bit of a cold. Still, he's happy as ever, and the teachers at his daycare love him. Although it breaks my heart, I know he is doing well in their arms.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Completely Unacceptable.

Here is exactly how long it takes to pick Jack up at daycare:

20 minutes: walk home from work
2.5 minutes: get the car out of the garage (carriage doors)
20 minutes: drive up the back roads to the JCC
15 minutes: gather Jack’s stuff, nurse him, talk to the teachers, pack the car
20 minutes: drive back
2.5 minutes: put the car back in the garage

Under ideal conditions, this process takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. I’ve yet to accomplish the task in less than an hour and a half.

3 hours. A day. Of picking up and dropping off.

Here is exactly how long it takes to pump breast milk for Jack:

2.5 minutes: walk to pumping location
2.5 minutes: assemble the milking device
15 minutes: pump
2.5 minutes: disassemble and repack bag
2.5 minutes: walk back to desk
5 minutes wash and dry pump parts

30 minutes on a good day. Twice at work and twice at home. It’s easier to pump at home so let’s say an hour and a half.

1.5 hours. A day. Of pumping milk. Like a cow.

Here is exactly what things need to be cleaned (and sometimes sterilized) every day (managed to trim down my previous list):

4 bottles for Jack:
- 4 glass bottles
- 4 silicone non-slip holders (required by our daycare)
- 4 caps
- 4 discs
- 4 collars
- 4 vents, part A
- 4 vents, part B

2 bottles for me to pump into:
- 2 glass bottles
- 2 caps

2 pump assemblies:
- 2 shields
- 2 size adjusting inserts
- 2 connectors
- 2 silicone inserts
- 2 back caps

Don’t clean, but assemble:
- Pump
- Power cord
- Tubing
- 4 clipping devices

It takes me about 40 minutes to wash everything and assemble it all for the next day.

Add in another 20 minutes for diapers, wipes, clothes, freezer packs for the milk, and other miscellaneous things that get assembled each morning.

1 hour. A day. Just prepping for the next day.

Old Schedule:

7:40-8:40, wake up, take a shower, make breakfast and lunch
8:40-9:00, walk to work
9:00-12:00, work
12:00-1:00, lunch with colleagues
1:00-4:40, work
4:40-5:00, walk home
5:00-6:30, make dinner, take the dogs to the park
6:30-7:00, eat
7:00-8:00, clean up, do laundry, make lunch for tomorrow
8:00-11:00, mess around on the internet, work some more, Netflix, whatever

New Schedule:

6:40-6:50, Jack’s asleep, throw on clothes (forget the shower)
6:50-7:10, cereal for breakfast, pack our lunches, double check daycare stuff
7:10-7:25, nurse Jack, change his diaper, get him dressed and in the car seat
7:25-7:40, pump
7:40-8:00, Greg leaves with Jack and I walk to work
8:00-10:00, work
10:00-10:30, pump
10:30-1:00, work, eat lunch at my desk
1:00-1:30, pump
1:30-4:00, work
4:00-5:30, pick up Jack from daycare
5:30-6:30, Greg takes dogs to the park, I make dinner one handed
6:30-6:45, Jack in his swing, we scarf down dinner
6:45-7:00, family time
7:00-9:00, clean the house, organize the madness for tomorrow, Greg gives Jack a bath and I put him down to sleep
9:00-9:30, make lunch for tomorrow, pump
9:30-10:30, time for myself + shower
1:00am, wake up with Jack
3:00am, wake up with Jack
5:00am, wake up with Jack

Before/after personal time:

4 hours / 1 hour

Before/after food assemblage time:

1 hour / 3.5 hours

Before/after transit time:

40 minutes / 110 minutes

Estimated family time: 15 minutes. Maybe 30 if one of us is holding Jack while we eat.

Not cool. The real kicker is: I LIKE our daycare! A lot! I don't want a nanny or a different daycare, but now I'm starting to think we need to do something to have more time together. As it is, 9 days into my return to work, the situation feels completely unacceptable. How can I raise a child when I get to see him for an hour, maybe an hour and a half, each day?

Something’s gotta give and I’m not sure what it will be. Perhaps my sanity? 4 day work week (career killer)? Get rid of the things I value so strongly: cloth diapers, glass bottles, breastfeeding, homemade meals? Ditch the dogs? Buy a house next to our daycare? I have no idea. At the moment, there is no solution. But it still feels completely unacceptable.

P.S. I could not communicate to you the immense amount of guilt I feel for having taken 30 minutes out of my day to type this out. Shit, I should be working or pumping. But I am desperate to get this absurdity off of my chest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fighting the sleep monster

I've written before about how Jack has so much trouble falling asleep. This morning, I caught a video of him struggling against the sleep-monster. This is a tough battle when performed in the swing...the swing used to be a guaranteed sleep-inducing device.

He's been doing this (eyes closed, arms and legs kicking around, little grunts and grumbles) for 20 minutes:

Jack saw me right at the end of this video, at which point he rubbed his face, opened his eyes fully, and smiled. I tiptoed out, closed the door, and left him to his own devices. 70 minutes after I put him in the swing, Jack finally fell asleep, at 10:30, for his first nap of the day ;)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Oooh ohh gurrrgle blrrrp plhppbbbt aaaah

Jack is a talker. He talks, we talk back. It's so funny to see him try to form new sounds. He ooohs and ahhs, coos and grrrs. There's a little motoring and growling. There's squealing and laughing. I love hearing him chat and I am so curious about what his real voice will sound like.

We've had a tough time getting Jack's talking sessions on camera. Chatting seems to be an interactive game for him, and he'll stop if we break eye contact. His chatting is not at all conducive to video -- as soon as we pull out a camera or change his position, he stops chatting.

Here, we managed to get a short clip of him cooing. Things rapidly moved into the "Mom! I'm hungry!" realm of Jack's vocabulary. Still, here are a few seconds:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 1 at daycare

I've been looking forward to writing about how this first week back at work has been. So many things have changed, and I suddenly find myself confused about
whether to write about Jack or about me. Sadly, our experiences have diverged. His day is totally different from mine now.

Let's start with the daycare. Jack is attending Yeladim at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Woodbridge, CT. They're lovely. Really, truly, lovely.

The head teacher has been at the JCC for 16 years and head of the infant room for 11 years. The classroom has four teachers for a total of six infants; two infants are part time (3 days a week), so the teacher:infant ratio is nearly 1:1. One more baby will join in November, and two more will join in January. Until then, Jack is the youngest, at 3 months (the other five are all 6-8 months old).

Since he is the youngest, and the least mobile, Jack is getting lots of hands-on attention. Somebody always seems to be holding him. The other children are crawling and entertaining themselves, but Jack is snuggly and gets plenty of TLC.

Here's what I like about Yeladim:
  • No schedules. Ever. I suppose they change diapers every 2 hours, but that's reasonable enough. Eating and sleeping are all "on demand"
  • No crying. They're always attending to the babies. With an open door (see below), they couldn't possibly let any children cry for more than a moment.
  • No institution-specific-philosophy. They parent your child however you'd like. If you sway your child to sleep, they sway him to sleep. If you wait exactly 5 minutes after he falls asleep to put him the crib, they will, too. If you feed him 1 oz at a time and never more, that'd be their routine, as well. *
  • No standard materials. Cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and glass bottles are all OK
  • No closed doors. The infant room is always wide open: everyone can see in, everyone comes in to say hi.
  • Not only are parents welcome to stop by and hang out with their little ones, it's encouraged. I've spent 5-6 hours in the infant room this week, and the teachers are so friendly and welcoming that I find it tough to leave.
* I promise I'm not that neurotic. I'm just coming up with examples.

So, Greg and I feel very good about the care that Jack is receiving. Frankly, I couldn't ask for anything better in a daycare. The only thing that bugs me is the commute. (1+ hour for each drop off and pick up, ugh... and it's like 4 miles away).

Jack seems to be doing very well. They love him there -- the teachers can't stop talking about how incredibly smiley he is and how he never cries. He's been happy in the evenings and falling asleep easily at night. I think all of the extra stimulation tires him out, and I imagine the routine must be good for him as well.

As best as I can tell, this has been a good experience for Jack. More about the parents later!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Never. Again.

My first day back at work.

9:45am, decide it is time to pump.

9:50am, people walking in and out of the chem lab across the hall (where I'd hoped to pump), that's a permanent no-go

9:50-10:00am, searching for a bathroom. All of them stink horribly. No place to put bag. Nowhere to sit. Water (or is that pee?) on the floor.

10:00-10:10am, in desperation, head over to the hospital, get directions to the lactation room (in maternity, 11th floor)

10:10am, door is locked, somebody is already using the room and I can't get in. More bathroom hunting.

10:15am, locate a suitable bathroom (no water on the floor, smells OK), start pumping in the handicap stall

10:17-10:23am, woman enters the bathroom, proceeds to have noisy diarrhea in the stall next to mine.

10:30am, I finish pumping, freakishly return pump parts to bag, absolutely terrified something will fall on the bathroom floor, imagining woman touching door handle, me touching door handle, then bottles, UGH.

10:40am, walk back to my cubicle, wash pump parts back in kitchenette sink, clean up

I will
never pump in a bathroom again. That was foul.

On the plus side, I got 5oz this morning and 5oz in the gross bathroom, so that's 10oz by 11am. I'm still not sure how much milk Jack will drink while at daycare, but this should be in the right ballpark.

Still, where to pump?! I'm going to ask a colleague if I can borrow her office.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy 3-month Day

Jack is 3 months old today. Tomorrow will be my first day back at work. My brain is a bit fried from counting, washing, sterilizing, and packing bottle and pump parts (32 and 32 pieces, respectively). I'm thinking sentimental thoughts but having trouble writing them down tonight.

Still, I'd like to make sure to mark Jack's reaching three months with a milestone post! Here is a short version.

Since the last update, Jack has...
  1. Learned how to smile at everyone and everything
  2. Learned how to giggle and laugh, to the great amusement of his parents
  3. Gotten exceedingly articulate... he's been chatty for a while, but now he moves his mouth and tongue every which way. He can make some pretty funny noises.
  4. Learned how to roll front to back and accidentally did back to front the other night
  5. Discovered the existence of his own fingers (endlessly entertaining)
  6. Figured out how to direct his fist to his mouth (no thumb, yet!)
  7. Started holding onto stuff
  8. Decided that tummy time's not so bad after all.
  9. Changed eye color
  10. Got sick and got over it.
  11. Started sleeping a glorious 5 hours at the start of the night.
  12. Started wanting to comfort nurse
  13. Established that he prefers his milk fresh, not frozen
  14. Gotten into a cloth diaper groove
  15. Grown. A lot. (Maybe about 13 pounds, now?)
  16. Figured out how to keep himself awake when his parents think it's time for sleep
  17. Grown an absurd amount of hair for one so tiny (mom's convinced that he's stealing it from her).
  18. Officially and completely derailed his parents' lives... much to their joy and amusement
OK. Time for bed for mom. :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

If it isn't chickens, it's feathers.

News item: Jack won't drink my breast milk after it's been frozen. I probably have excess lipase.

Shit. This spells trouble.

I have nearly 80 oz of expressed milk stored in the freezer, and I have no reason to think that the milk we tried this morning is any different than the rest -- it's probably all bad. I should have known better and tested my milk before stocking up, but why would I give Jack frozen milk when there's always a surplus in me, and in our refrigerator?

Fortunately I still have a bit of an oversupply and I think pumping will go OK... but there will be days. The bottle will tip over. They'll toss perfectly fresh milk because of state regulations. The daycare will need some frozen milk for him and there won't be any. I assume they'll make us give him formula in those times (we certainly can't let him be hungry).

What to do?!

I should add in an extra pump session during the day to be sure of having enough milk for him (great, 120 minutes every day instead of 90 minutes every day). Supposedly scalding milk deactivates lipase enzyme; I can bring the milk to a simmer, then freeze it. Presumably the scalding will also denature all of the lovely antibodies, too... But it'll be a better solution than giving him regular bottles of formula, which can alter the intestinal flora of a breastfed baby after even one bottle. If I'm going to go to so much effort to breastfeed Jack while I'm working, I'd like him to have 100% breast milk.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Jack hasn't been napping so well this week. He has trouble falling asleep.

He's great at night. He wakes up 2:30 and 5:30. He nurses quickly and goes back into his co-sleeper crib. I don't even burp him or change him at night -- there's no need. Nights are pretty easy.

It's the falling asleep part that isn't working very well. Jack can fight slumber like nobody's business. I spend about 20-40 minutes getting him down for a nap, and I'm lucky if he'll stay asleep for more than 20 minutes. He rubs his eyes and squirms, he cries and whimpers, he buries his face into my neck and shows every sign of complete exhaustion. Then, with Herculean strength, his eyes pop open, his legs start kicking, and he's cooing into my face again. Sometimes it's charming, but, mostly, through the smiles and coos that I return to him, it's a little maddening. When his "I'm awake, mom!" coos turn into "I feel so awful" screams, everybody loses. It's my job, to get Jack to sleep, and I can't seem to make it happen.

Why won't Jack sleep?

I can only assume that he finds the world far too interesting to turn off. He's always looking and squirming, smiling and kicking. Jack is a strong, interested, and active baby, and it seems that everything -- from the sliver of light in the doorway to the rumble of a truck going past our window -- is fascinating to him. So the minute that little head starts nodding off, those little eyes pop open and the legs start kicking and he does everything he can to stay up amongst the adults.

This whole napping business is causing me a surprising amount of stress. There are always moments in my week during which I feel overwhelmed... however, this is the first time since he was born that I've been consumed by frustration to a point where it interferes with my ability to comfort Jack. He cries or wakes himself up from yet another 5 minute power-snooze, and I... I freak out. I suddenly can't handle it. The internal tension boils violently: I'm a bad mother, I've failed, Jack's awake again, something's wrong, why won't our child sleep? I put him down too soon or too late. I've made him too dependent or I haven't been soothing enough. Zane barked -- because I forgot to give the dog fresh water, damnit, why didn't I remember to fill the bowl? Now Jack's awake again.

It's amazing how consumed I've become by Jack's sleeping problem.

I'm guilty.

Maybe if we hadn't gone to the dog park this morning, maybe he would have had a nap indoors instead of the car. Maybe he'd be less cranky in the evening. Maybe he'd sleep better at night and get more slow wave time, and that'd help his little mind grow, and maybe he'd have a higher IQ and get a better SAT score and have the career of his dreams, and meet his future partner and have a family... and... I'm, I'm... I'm messing it all up. All of it.

Oh, you think I'm joking, but this is how my mind is working this week, filled to the brim with nap-obsession and frazzled enough to write several pages about how my 3 month old doesn't close his eyes for sustained periods of time. Frazzled enough to feel like I suddenly can't take being a mother: let our daycare take care of him, is my secret thought when I get to that point... they'll do a better job, I convince myself. They're professionals. They'll get him to nap, at least. I certainly can't. He wakes up from his nap with a cry, and, well, frazzled is an understatement.

I've been considering what exactly is wrong with me these past few days. Why I'm so short tempered. Why I can't stand to see him cry for even a moment. Why I feel so damn guilty about his trouble with naps this week.

Why I feel so damn guilty this week.

Guilty. This week more than last.

I know why I feel so damn guilty.

I feel guilty because I am sending Jack to daycare on Tuesday, to a place where they're experts in naps but not experts in Jack.

That's why I feel guilty.

There, I said it. At least I can stop feeling guilty about the naps now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

He kind of sounds like a parrot

This morning, after Greg left for work, Jack and I had some playtime. I kissed him on the right cheek and then the left, and back and forth, and he was just loving it. Then I heard a giggle! I did it again, and he giggled again. I was so excited. I had seen Jack give a little giggle once before, when I put him on my chest while I laid down, to give him some tummy time (apparently my face was really just that funny). But this cheek kissing bit seemed to amuse him more reliably.

Greg came home that night and we decided to duplicate the giggle-inducing move. This time, instead of giggling... Jack laughed! Greg and I got to see his first laugh together. I grabbed Greg's iphone and caught another laugh on video:

True, our son sounds more like a squawking parrot than anything else... but it's definitely a laugh.

I am surprised by how excited I am to hear Jack laugh. It feels even more monumental than seeing him smile. Babies smile (reflexively) from birth; you could call it a grimace or blame it on gas. It's never clear when the smile is a "real" smile.

But a laugh? Yesterday Jack didn't laugh and today he does. I can be sure, when he laughs, that he is truly happy. What a beautiful sound!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This is not the most well written post! However, I'd like to record my experience with cloth diapers before going back to work... because, once I go back to work, I probably won't have time for long rambling posts like this ;) Here goes

My overall opinion

I really like cloth diapers. They're soft. They're free of nasty chemicals. They're undeniably good for the environment. They save us money. Cloth diapers are not for everyone, but I feel good about our choice to go with them.

We started Jack in cloth after his first week home from the hospital. He was tiny and the diapers barely fit, but they worked somewhat well. Unfortunately, he developed a diaper rash that refused to go away until we put him in disposables. I think his skin was very sensitive, being that young, and, also, we both had a case of thrush. We needed to keep his bum super dry, so he was in disposables for a few weeks.

At week six, we started cloth diapers again. Here is my experience...

The Basics

Cloth diaper systems have two basic components: an absorbent part (the diaper), and a waterproof part (the cover). Here are a few types of diapers:

Prefolds with covers. An inner square of cloth (usually cotton) is folded into a diaper shape around the baby and secured with pins or a "snappy" (the snappy has teeth that grab onto the diaper). A waterproof cover is secured on top. Alternately, the prefold is simply folded into thirds and placed inside of the diaper cover -- this works great for pee, but not so much for poop. They're super cheap, wash easily, and are useful for a variety of other tasks (rags, burp cloths, etc). One cover lasts 3-4 diaper changings before it needs to be washed. Downsides? Cotton does not wick moisture away from the baby's skin, so these diapers must be changed frequently.

Fitted diapers. This is a diaper that has been stitched into shape, so no snappy is necessary. Downsides? Expensive and still needs a cover.

All in ones. A fitted diaper with a cover stitched onto the outside. These work just like regular diapers. Downsides? Because you can't remove the absorbent part from the waterproof cover, it takes a long time to dry.

Pocket diapers. These are one of the most popular kinds of diapers. They consist of a waterproof cover with a layer of fabric inside (usually fleece or a synthetic) that serves to wick away moisture. A super absorbent pad (usually fleece, synthetic, hemp, or cotton) is then stuffed into the diaper. Pocket diapers are really nice because you can stuff them with however much absorbency you want. Downsides? Have to de-stuff the diaper for washing and re-stuff before putting it on the baby.

Hybrid diapers. These are diaper covers with flushable, biodegradable inserts. The flushable insert is attractive (no need to launder the inside part!). Downsides? Expensive. Have to break up the insert in the toilet with a stick to avoid clogging the pipes. Uses similar super-absorbent materials as commercial diapers. Still have to wash the covers (at which point, why not just wash the inserts as well...)

Wipes. I. Love. Cloth. Wipes. So much so that even if you gave me tubs and tubs of free disposable wipes with the assurance that there were no chemicals and that no energy was used to make them and that they'd magically disappear once I was done... I'd still beg for my cloth wipes back. They work so much better. I'll post about wipes later.

Care and cleaning. Cloth diapering is particularly easy while Jack is exclusively nursing because... breastmilk poop... well, it's not much of anything. We just wash the diapers once with a bit of detergent and vinegar and they're clean. We hang them outside on the clothesline to dry, and the sun bleaches away any stains. When Jack starts solid foods, we'll need to dunk the diapers in the toilet before washing and might have to do a double wash -- not fun, but I think it'll be fine.

Here's how much effort cloth diapering adds to our life:

Fastening the diaper: same amount of time as a disposable
Taking the diaper off: need to de-stuff the pockets and store everything in a waterproof bag
Restocking the diapers: need to wash every 2-3 days (10 minutes), hang up outside to dry (15 minutes), re-stuff and stock the diaper drawer (15 minutes). Sometimes we throw everything in the dryer instead of line drying.

Round 1

Early on, I decided that I wanted to cloth diaper, but I wasn't sure which "system" to go with. (This is a superb example of how having too many options is not a good thing). We started with prefolds and a variety of covers:

3 Snappies (for securing the diapers): $10
3 Kissaluvs (fitted, no folding necessary) from Amazon: $40
24 newborn cotton prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers: $42
12 random cotton prefolds from Amazon: $20
6 hemp cotton prefolds from Amazon: $20
2 thirsties waterproof covers (velcro): $22
1 thirsties duo cover (snaps): $12
1 bummies whisper wrap cover (snaps): $10
1 litewrap (velcro): $8

So, I spent $174 for Newborn diapers. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a waste. With the diaper rash and his growing so quickly, he only fit into the newborn prefolds from weeks 6-10 (and this boy has a tiny little waist -- I think they usually grow out of the newborn size sooner). Plus, the hemp prefolds suck (they absorb well but they are a pain to fasten), and the Kissaluvs were complete waste of money (adorable, but not useful).

There is a learning curve to figuring out how to secure a prefold onto a newborn, but now I can change him into a prefold with a cover just as fast as I can get him into a disposable diaper. I expected prefolds to be a hassle, but they weren't really -- they just needed to be changed more frequently than other diapers.

Here's what Jack looked like in a green mountain newborn prefold with an xsmall thirsties cover when he was 2 weeks old:

And here he is at 12 weeks (same diaper, same cover):

The xsmall thirsties is for 12 lbs; he's 13+ and still has plenty of velcro left (though the rise is getting too shallow)

I can still stuff him into a newborn prefold, but realistically, he grew out of this whole system at 10 weeks. We've spent about $80 in disposable diapers to cover the interim period.


We started Jack in FuzziBunz at 6 weeks old:

6 small FuzziBunz: $100 (these were actually a gift from our registry)

The FBs are fantastic. They have snaps and work just like regular diapers (no folding/snappies involved). They are very absorbent, and you can add extra pads to draw away more moisture. I'm try to be observant and change Jack as soon as I know he's pooped, so we haven't had any problems with blowouts. Greg loves them. Really, they're a cinch. The only drawback is that they take up a lot of space in our diaper drawer.

When Jack grew out of the prefolds, we faced a decision: do we invest in more cloth diapers or do we go with disposables? The FBs are clearly my preference when it comes to diapering. The prefolds must be changed every 1-2 hours, which is not any problem when I'm at home, but we couldn't put our daycare provider through that. FBs are just easy and can go 3 hours between changes. Plus, they are super cute!

FBs come in two varieties: "perfect fit" ($15, sized, small, medium, or large) and "one size" ($20, all the way up to 35lb). Realistically, you need about 18-20 diapers to do laundry every two days. Most children can have a set of smalls and a set of mediums, and that's all they need until potty training.

I scoured the internet for good deals. Here's what I purchased:

18 medium + 5 large FBs from Craigslist: $220 ($9.50 per FB, used)
7 small FBs from Craigslist: $77 ($11 per FB, used)
7 "one size" + 1 small + 1 medium FBs from $120 ($13 per FB, new)

The total came to $420. Since the "one size" will fit as smalls, mediums, and larges, here is my current stash: 20 smalls, 26 mediums, 13 larges. This is a ton of diapers; depending on how our daycare chooses to go through diapers, we'll be washing every 2-3 days.


We didn't even try to cloth diaper at night... I've heard from so many folks that it is a huge challenge, and, frankly, I don't see the point. I'd rather try to use less disposable products in other areas of my life. I would say we average 2 disposable diapers a day. At $0.30 each, that's $219 per year, or ~$660 in three years.

Dollars and Cents

Our cloth diaper stash cost $600 and we anticipate spending ~$700 on disposables to diaper Jack through year 3. Our front-loading efficient washer costs about $0.40 a load, so we are probably spending an extra $75 a year to wash these diapers.

If we were using all disposables, I would estimate about 8 diapers a day for the first year ($870) and 6 diapers a day for years 2-3 ($2000), or about $2900 to diaper Jack through year 3. If we went for a cheaper, commercial brand of disposable diapers, we could probably diaper him through year 3 for about $1500.

Here's the really important part. FBs last forever and have superb resale value (generally 50% of their original price... it took me a lot of searching to find such good deals on the used ones). Plus, should there be a baby #2, we have all of the diapers we'll ever need.

If I were to do it again...

I would buy 24 newborn prefolds with 3-4 thirsties duo (snaps) covers ($100). We use the prefolds for absolutely everything around here (burp cloths, rags, super-absorbent nursing pads at night, etc). I'd make my life (and storage issues) easier and just get a huge stock of new "one size" FBs: 24*$20 = $480.

My advice, if you're interested in cloth diapers

I thought I could start cloth diapers from the get-go... we would have saved money and effort if I had eased into things. I would suggest that you buy 12 prefolds and 2 thirsties covers. Buy a fuzzibunz or other "easy" diaper. See what you like. From that small investment (~$60), you will have a good sense of whether you want to cloth diaper or not.

Monday, October 11, 2010


We can't decide what color Jack's eyes are.

I have solid brown eyes with golden tones. Greg's eyes are "green", but it's not a bright/clear irish green... it's more of a Mediterranean green -- sometimes they look solidly green, sometimes hazel, sometimes barely blueish. Greg has a light ring at the center of each eye.

Jack's eyes became progressively darker during weeks 6 through 8. We thought they were going brown... but then they stopped changing color. Sometimes they look blue, sometimes brown, and sometimes green. He has a light ring at the center, just like Greg. We are calling Jack's eyes grey.

I wonder if they will get even darker with time?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Members Only?

One of the things about pregnancy and childbirth that nobody tells you about is The Secret Club. You suspect it might exist, you try to get chummy with the major players, but nobody wants to let you in on their tete a tete. Then, suddenly, BAM, you get pregnant and it happens: you find yourself engaging in conversation with people you never had much in common with before about topics you never thought you'd find yourself bringing up in polite discourse (let me give you a hint: it starts with p and rhymes with "coo"). Yes, there is a Parenthood Club. Membership often includes gift exchange, inappropriate conversation, and forgiveness for all manner of social indiscretion.

Let me list some reasons why I think The Club exists:
  1. You assume nobody else cares to hear about the crazy diaper blowout that happened in the grocery store line*
  2. You fear meeting these needs with your non-parental friends because you'll turn into That Mom Who Never Stops Talking About Her Kids, or That Martyr Who Can't Get Over The Pain Of Labor **
  3. You've got something in common with other parents and parents-to-be, and the truth is, it's a profound commonality
*You might be right
**I am extremely guilty of this one

Personally, having been excluded while seeking membership in The Club, I'm not a fan of withholding conversation about childbirth or childrearing just because someone hasn't personally gone through it themselves. It's time for another list. Reasons why I dislike filtering conversation for different people:
  1. Exclusion sucks and invariably causes pain; even if you think your masking strategy works, the person you're talking to is probably well aware that you are withholding the full story or glossing over what's really important. If someone wants to know, I say tell 'em, all the terrible and glorious details.
  2. I could not tell you the number of times I've had a personal reaction in the realm of "Well why didn't anybody tell me that?!". Now I know a few small things, and I'm sharing. I hope those who know more will share back to me.
  3. I run a real danger of losing my former identity (Rachael) to my new identity (Jack's Mom). Categorizing the people I encounter and the subjects I speak about would only make those differences stronger.
Clearly, a balance must be struck. I'm no expert by far, but here's my opinion on this matter. You've got to be honest, but you've also got to remember your audience: give the gory details, but only hit the forbidden topics of pain, sleep deprivation, and Things That Exit You Or Your Baby's Body if they ask. Never take it for granted that someone does or doesn't know where you're coming from. Be sure to talk about non-parental topics with Club Members, too, and don't shy away from saying that you're happy or you're sad, even that happiness or sadness is out of line with what your conversation partner expects. Basically? Be yourself. Be honest. Oh and don't generalize -- because that's just annoying***.

***See current paragraph for good example of bad generalization.

Allow me to let you in on another little secret. There's an additional reason why The Club is so very necessary:
  1. You need support. You really, really, really need support, because deep down, The New World is a scary place. You are both terrified of being rejected by your former friends and desperate to be accepted by the new crowd, and you will do (or talk about) whatever it takes to be liked.

After becoming a parent and relating to other parents on a different level, I found that many of the experiences I thought were unusual were actually well on the spectrum of normal. But I didn't find that out until I was actually a Club Member and these new channels of conversation were open to me. In the spirit of illuminating touchy subjects that are often avoided in mixed company, I'm going to be blunt about three items:

- The Challenge of Pregnancy: everybody's different. My pregnancy was absolutely fabulous, despite many obstacles before and during gestation. I'm not afraid to say that, in the right context. I enjoyed being pregnant and I miss it. I know women who had challenging pregnancies, and their stories are just as important. The point here is that everybody's experience is different, and it's important to not have a solitary expectation of such an important event.

- Pain of Childbirth: I found the pain to be beyond belief. It left me unable to do anything but let out primal screams (I stopped being capable of breathing through contractions at about 4cm, 6 hours before he was born). I was ill-prepared for the blood bath, and so, for interested persons, I tell them the truth of my personal experience: it was like someone proceeded to rip out my fingernails, drive thumbtacks into my spine and tighten a vice grip around my midsection while playing "it's a small world after all" as I violently and uncontrollably threw up... for 1 minute at a time, every 5-8 minutes, for 12 hours. Oh and the thumbtack part was constant. Really, I can't come up with a description to do it justice. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I'd do it again. But that's the honest to god truth, and I wish someone had warned me.

- Joy of parenthood: I'm so happy. I know I'm supposed to be sleep deprived and stressed out, and there are plenty of those moments... but being tired is not what I will remember about these early months. I hesitate to be that annoying "parenthood is awesome" person... yet it really is the truth, for me, in this very moment, and I don't think I should cover up my joy. I've had a conversation with a woman who explained, quite bluntly, as she happily kissed the top of his playful, 6-month old head, that she never bonded with her child after birth. It took her months to really want him. I gained such respect for her after our conversation and I had the impression that she appreciated hearing my story, in spite of how polar opposite it was to her own experience: we were honest with each other, and that was the most important thing.

I hope that my bluntness does not come off the wrong way: these were my experiences, and yours were or will be different. What else is a blog for, if not an outlet for ideas that need further working out? I know that there are quite a few people reading this blog, from a broad spectrum of experience. Feel free to chime in.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gains and Losses

I thought I had avoided the dreaded post-partum hair loss. Supposedly you only lose hair that you gained while pregnant; my hair had not gotten much thicker while pregnant, so I figured the hair loss wouldn't be very noticeable.

Hah. My hair is falling out. A lot of it and all at once. I can't believe how dramatic the hair loss is. I assumed it would happen right after birth, but it seems to have started this week, nearly 3 months post partum. My other mom friends have had similar delayed-hair-loss experience.

While taking a shower this morning (and pulling out handful after handful of hair), I started thinking about what I've gained and what I've lost from being pregnant and having a child. Here is what I came up with.

Gained a baby and the confidence that I can take care of him. This one is obvious!

Lost some independence. For at least a little while longer, I can't do what I want to do when I want to do it.

Gained strength in my marriage and love for my partner. Greg and I were a domestic pair from the start. Our relationship began over our dogs and progressed through a year of do-it-yourself home renovations. Having a baby to take care of makes both of us exceedingly happy; so far, it has enhanced our relationship, and I wouldn't go back for a minute.

Lost our couple time. I wouldn't quite say the spark has been lost, but I would say that 90% of our conversation is still about the baby. Gotta' be careful not to let that go on for too long, but we decided it would be OK to indulge ourselves in this mutual obsession for just a little while longer.

Gained an appreciation for women and mothers everywhere. Women, you are amazing. Absolutely amazing.

Lost my sense of wonder and mystery about it all. I used to think of birth as an empowering experience. Now that I've gone through it, I would not describe it that way. Everybody's birth experience is different, however, so don't let me get you down.

Gained many terrible stretch marks. At least 4 dozen, by my count. They're bad. Really bad.

Lost several pounds of fat. I was shocked to find myself significantly below my pre-pregnancy weight within days of giving birth, and it's stayed that way. (To be clear, I ate very well and Jack was a healthy 8lb). You know when you lose that last pound or two and feel really really good about how you look? Well I lost quite a bit more than the pound or two but my shape got worse. Too bad. Long live the muffin-top.

Gained and lost several inches on my hips. It was awesome while it lasted... I've always wanted wider hips. (Seriously).

Gained several inches on my waistline. Bummer. I used to like my waist. I'd like to think my shape will return, but I suspect it won't...see ref on stretch marks (above) and abs (below)

Lost the connective tissue that keeps my abdominal muscles together. Double bummer. Lots of core exercises have made it better, but I'll always have to be careful not to cause further damage to my midsection.

Gained quite a bit of muscle elsewhere. Babies are heavy, man, and they want to be held all the time!

Lost my general impatience with the world. So long as we're healthy and happy, I can handle that annoyingly slow car in front of me or the dog puke on the rug. I'm a little more appreciative of other peoples' lives -- you never know what their day has been like

Gained the ability to bounce and dance with a baby for an hour or more. I'll do anything to help this kid get to sleep.

Lost the ability to consume alcohol. (In significant quantities, at least)

Gained the ability to lactate. Excellent! I love learning new skills.

Lost time to do my hair, makeup, or pick out clothes. Perhaps one day you'll see me without a ponytail and a headband.

Gained spit up and drool on almost every outfit I own. Good thing the gross-factor goes away when it's your own baby!

Lost the ability to think about myself and only myself. I miss it just a little.

Gained many happy thoughts that I can return to any time I want. When I'm not with Jack, I enjoy daydreaming about him, and those are special memories.

Lost interest in world events. . Sorry, world, I'm just so focused on this little guy.

Gained absurdly random scientific knowledge about babycare. I try not to bore you with that stuff here.

Lost pretty much everything else that used to fill my head. I hope to god my cognitive function returns once I go back to work!

Gained a measure of happiness. Having a family makes me feel complete. I have some certainty that my career is going to work out and faith that the rest of life will be OK. I'm sure I'll fluctuate back to uncertainty at times, but I think, on the whole, this feeling of confidence will be permanent.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I don't know

I don't know how I am going to return to work.

I mean, I know how I'm going to do it. I'm going to kiss Jack on the head and walk out the door. I will simply ignore every instinct in my bones, sit at a desk for 8 hours, and the deed will be done. Jack is my drug and there will be withdrawal. I'm probably going to cry. I figure I'll spend much of my first days back looking at pictures of him and sniffing onesies that I've sneaked into my laptop bag.

But I still don't know how I'm going to do it.

Until recently, work was my Entire Identity. Then infertility struck, which became my New Identity, and then a year of wondrous fertile experiences, and those were my New New Identity. For nine months, we incubated together, growing in body and soul. For the last three months, I've been Jack's mother, living in the lovely land of the present moment. After some adjustment, we found our stride, and I was surprised to find out just how good of a fit motherhood was. Very infrequently in life you get exactly what you want for a short period of time, and happiness strikes. These three months have been happier than any other three months of my life. True words.

Jack needs constant care and it feels so right to provide him with my undivided attention, to allow myself the luxury of being consumed by him. My love borders on obsession, and when Jack is so tiny and so helpless, that's OK. But that won't always be the case: his infant stage will end, and I know that I will need something more. I suppose it only makes sense that I would be scared of losing what is now "normal" for me, so I ought to anticipate that the transition being difficult. I know that I would not be a complete (or happy) person if I stayed at home forever: my return to work is necessary and inevitable.

Can you tell that my feelings on this issue fluctuate? I'm trying to convince myself of something here.

Because, today I am and tomorrow I will continue to be captivated by this little being. I breath in the perfume of Jack's hair, feel his solid weight and soft skin against mine, his exhalation making a warm spot on my arm with a regular cadence that is the most perfect rhythm I could imagine. Oh, how sweet is his breath as we snuggle and dance together on this rainy afternoon. He wakes up and smiles at me, and I smile back. He coos. We are each other's world. I know that I've enabled his life, that I am the guardian of his happiness and the protector of his future. Who else can do this better than I can? We are still one. His skin is my skin. We have shared every molecule together: his body is of the milk that I nurse him with. My eyes begin to tingle. I can't leave him. I can't let him go. I keep thinking, "you can't have him", and I don't know who "you" is until the I realize it is the world. I will cradle him in my arms forever.

My maternal urge is overwhelming and terrifying.

So I must prepare for a new identity and another transition. Remind myself of what is so difficult to remember: I will not be returning as working woman. I will be a working mother, and I won't know exactly how it feels until I get there.

What shall I do as my maternity leave draws to a close? I don't know. Muse, cry, enjoy what remains of this special time, and snuggle every chance we get.